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06 April 2004 - Meath Chronicle - HFGC - BY JIMMY GEOGHEGAN

Headfort's Qatar Man Gets Life In Kells

Fresh from sojourns in Qatar, Singapore and Dubai, Damien McGrane made a return to his old stomping ground on Friday when he received honorary life membership from Headfort Golf Club.

These days the Kells man spends most of his time jetting around the globe as he seeks to make a name in the top echelons of world golf.

But he hasn't forgotten his roots and where he first learned to play the game which has brought him considerable fame. The fortune that others such as Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington have amassed has yet to come McGrane's way, but indications are that it might not be all that far away. The 32-year-old, who is a professional at Co. Wexford, put in a very respectable performance in the Singapore Masters eventually finishing on 282, 10 shots behind the winner Colin Montgomerie.

McGrane says he loves returning home and he looked relaxed and slightly sun-tanned on Friday evening as he spoke to a group of journalists in the clubhouse at Headfort.

"I started playing golf in 1985 and this place has been good to me. I learned my golf here.

"I learned off the club pro at the time, Joey Purcell. Back then golf clubs weren't difficult to get into and like most young lads I played fanatically," he said.

"I took to the game and I was lucky I had a good course here. I liked the competitive side of the game and I managed to make the grade at each level. To get honorary life membership is fantastic because this is my home town."

The word "competitive" is one McGrane regularly uses and it is the push to be a player on the world stage and to maximise his talent that drives McGrane on. It also helps him to endure long spells away from his family and the endless travelling.

Having endured a disappointing first year on the European Tour, McGrane had to re-qualify for 2004 and he is determined to learn from past mistakes. To survive in the ruthlessly competitive world of professional golf he knows he must improve all the time.

"Two years ago I used to think that it was fantastic to win E10,000, now I'm disappointed if I win E10,000. I understand that I have to keep my card and I have to make the most of every opportunity. If I win E10,000 I know that could be E12,000 very easily and that's the way I'm looking at things. I want to compete, I want to achieve things, I want to be the best I can."

Any suggestion that jetting around to exotic places is a carefree, idyllic existence are quickly dispelled.

"If you play good golf you can enjoy yourself, but it's a very tough business. If a challenge is put to a player he'll either fail miserably or he'll defeat that challenge. Every course in America is extremely difficult, but yet somebody goes out there, gets the bit between their teeth and grinds it out, that's what it is about," he added.

While the returns for a good performance are considerable McGrane says that he spends E3,000 a week on expenses.

Part of McGrane's schedule in the coming months is the Irish Open at Baltray and a rare opportunity to play in a major tournament on his own doorstep. The Co. Louth course is just about as far away from the deserts of Dubai or the heat of Singapore as you can get.